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by Pat Cadigan

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-86665-8
Publisher: Tor

Near/medium-future cyberpunk yarn from the author of the paperback Fools (1992), etc., and numerous well-known stories. Artificial Reality is indistinguishable from external reality; all enthusiasts and addicts need to enter it is a “hotsuit” and a helmet. Police Lieutenant Dore Konstantin investigates a DOA found in an AR parlor; the victim is a 17-year-old Caucasian with a messily cut throat. In AR he called himself Shantih Love, or perhaps Tom Iguchi, though he wasn’t Japanese; his favored scenario was post-Apocalyptic Noo Yawk Sitty—wherein, Konstantin discovers, eight deaths have occurred in as many months. There were no witnesses, and nobody was seen to enter or leave the booth where the boy died. Meanwhile, Yuki, a full-blooded Japanese (Japan itself has been destroyed), attempts to locate her mysteriously vanished boyfriend, Tom Iguchi. She meets Tom in Noo Yawk Sitty, but he’s trapped somehow in AR; worse, someone else is experiencing everything she experiences, wearing her just as she wears the hotsuit supplied by shady AR facilitator Joy Flower. Konstantin, though a novice and completely out of her depth, is also forced to enter AR in order to develop new information. She borrows the Shantih Love ID, complete with cut throat, and eventually learns that the enigmatic Body Sativa knows everything that’s going on in AR. A parlor employee, it emerges, was supplying drugs to clients, enabling them to “speed” up to the higher levels of AR enjoyed by clubbers, manipulators, and various wannabes. Poor Yuki, meanwhile, finds she has become Joy Flower’s slave. Konstantin will find it perplexing to sort out the swirl of motives and multiple identities, or even distinguish AR from reality. The murder mystery’s well constructed and often absorbing—but AR is no different from VR, and the intractable problem remains: when anything can happen, how is it possible to care when something does?